Romanticism turns the ruin into a symbol of all artistic creation; the literary or painted fragment is more highly prized than the finished or unified work. An aphorism by Friedrich Schlegel states: "Many works of the ancients have become fragments. Many works of the moderns are fragments at the time of their origin." Everything tends towards the status of a torso: the incomplete or mutilated hunk of sculpted stone. The Romantic impulse is to valorize the very decay of the classical artifact.
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In the dialectic between the ruin and nature, the ruin comes to be seen as natural; this is why it is possible to ruin a ruin.
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In his essay of 1911, "The Ruin," the German sociologist Georg Simmel identified the precise relationship that had been disrupted in Rome [during the restoration of the Colosseum]. "Architecture," he writes, "is the only art in which the great struggle between the will of the spirit and the necessity of nature issues into real peace, in which the soul in its upward striving and nature in its gravity are held in balance." In the ruin, nature begins to have the upper hand: the "brute, downward-dragging, corroding, crumbling power" produces a new form, "entirely meaningful, comprehensible, differentiated." But at what point can nature be said to have been victorious in this battle between formal spirit and organic substance? The ruin is not the triumph of nature, but an intermediate moment, a fragile equilibrium between persistence and decay.
There's a certain pregnancy to the ruin. it can be difficult to avoid kitsch, but it's also quite possible to come up with something sublime.
Are there particular types of ruins, or actual singular ruins themselves, that you're fond of? Do you visit them? Or do you favour razing them for the new? Or do you have some other opinion, a compromise between the two extremes or something entirely different?